KANSAS CITY, Mo. — TJ Hullaby wants to believe that a good start can lead to an even better finish.
Agonizingly close to berths in the Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships each of the past two seasons, Park Hill’s experienced senior wants to taste the success he’s so often seen from teammates during a run of four consecutive team state championships. Hullaby went 5-0 at 182 pounds on Saturday, Dec. 3 to help the Trojans go unbeaten and again claim the top honors in the Park Hill Duals tournament held at Park Hill High School.
Hullaby won four of his five matches in decisions.
“Senior year, I’m determined to make it past districts, make it to state and place,” said Hullaby, on and off on varsity all four years. “This year, I feel like (my confidence) is pretty high because over the years I’ve built up my perfect shot, which is my double leg. I just want to use it to the best of my ability.”
Despite being without two sophomore returning state qualifiers, Park Hill dominated each of its three pool duals in the morning, and a 52-18 win against Waukee (Iowa) ended up being the championship matchup.
In the semifinals, the Trojans throttled preseason Class 3 favorite Smithville 54-12, while Waukee toppled Kearney. With the results decided, coaches opted to have Park Hill and Kearney face off, resulting in a 49-13 win for the Trojans.
Park Hill lost just one match in wins over Liberty North and Lewis Central (Iowa) and just three against Waukee and Kearney. Smithville won four decisions.
For Park Hill, freshman Trey Crawford (106), junior Weston DiBlasi (126), junior Josh Steele (132), sophomore Blake Hopson (160), sophomore Devin Winston (170) and Hullaby all went unbeaten.
“This one is always important because it lets us know where we’re at,” Hullaby said. “From the look of it, we’re pretty high. We feel like our team is pretty high, and our freshmen are really good.”
Waukee opened with a 3-0 lead in the pool finale after Anthony Zach secured a late takedown to beat returning state medalist Tommy Lisher in a 7-4 decision at 152. Park Hill won the next five matches, including first period pins for Hopson, Winston and freshmen Ashton Sharp (195) and Johnny Wilson (220).
In between, Hullaby won a 7-3 decision.
Park Hill’s most impressive performances came in the win against Smithville. With the Trojans up 11-0 after a pin for Hopson and 15-0 technical fall from Winston, Sharp narrowly lost an overtime decision to Smithville senior Jake Boyd, a nationally ranked Oklahoma commit and Class 2 state champion.
In the 195 match, Boyd held a 1-0 lead late when Sharp scored a reversal with about 30 seconds left in regulation. Boyd popped back to his feet, and the official hit Sharp with his second stall warning when he failed to return Boyd to the mat in a timely manner.
The penalty point tied the score and sent the match to overtime. After a scoreless 1-minute sudden death period, Boyd scored an escape in the first of two 30-second double overtime periods and then rode Sharp out for the win.
“I thought (Sharp) showed a lot of heart, a lot of toughness,” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said. “I was extremely proud of his effort. We know he’s capable of going with guys like that, and he did.”
Smithville also won decisions at 120, 138 and 145 with returning state medalists, including 2015 state champion and two-time finalist junior Alex Rivera. Trey Safford, filling in for Austin Kolvek, lost 1-0 at 120 against Mitchell Bohlken (fourth at 113 in Class 2), while Rivera won 6-0 against freshman Aidan Johnson at 138.
At 145, Nick Bollinger (runnerup at 138 in Class 2) won an 8-3 decision against junior Edwin Figueroa, a third-year wrestler filling in for Carter Goslee.
Park Hill junior Kelvin Eblen, a two-time state medalist and Class 4 state champion at 106 last year, survived after Smithville sophomore Blake Ackerman reversed him to his back late in the first period. The 113-pound matchup of defending 106 state champions ended with a 9-6 decision for Eblen, who led 5-0 and then 9-5.
Lisher also topped Austin Purtle, a third-place medalist at 152 last year in Class 2, in a 16-4 major decision to close out the dual win.
“I was real pleased with our conditioning,” Davis said. “I thought the kids went out and competed hard, and that’s all you can ask. I think our shape is outstanding right now. That’s a good thing for us to build on.”
Park Hill managed just four of its tournament-high 35 pins against Kearney. Hopson closed the day with his fifth pin, fourth that came in the first period for the returning state qualifier.
DiBlasi, who wrestled four matches, also had four first period pins, and he needed just 42 seconds to pin Kearney’s Mason Lockamy in their 126 match.
While Park Hill took the Black Division title, Park Hill South put up an important showing in the Red Division.
The Panthers went 4-0 with a narrow 39-33 win against Marshall in pool and then toppling Lee’s Summit West 45-27 in the championship. Gage Baska (120), Cameron Gillespie (160) and Trace Weatherford (220) all went 4-0, helping overcome open spots at 106, 170 and 182.
Park Hill South did not have sophomore returning state qualifier Jakob Lebar in the lineup nor 2015 state qualifier Carter Thomas.
Marshall led 33-27 after the 132 matchup with Park Hill South, which then took an open at 138 for Andrew Mikuls. With the score tied, Park Hill South’s Andre Anderson scored a pin in 1:31 at 145 to seal the win and vault the Panthers into the final.
Mikuls, who just missed a state berth last year, lost 3-2 to Ryan Waits at 138 in the Lee’s Summit West dual. The Titans closed within six before Anderson, Kevin Nollet (152) and Gillespie won three straight by pin to give the Panthers the Red Division title.
Platte County put three in the finals and finished fifth out of 16 teams in a season-opening tournament Saturday, Dec. 3 in Gardner, Kan. Cody Phippen (113) and Casey Jumps (220) turned in dominant performances to win their brackets for the Pirates, while junior Dakota Schmidt made the final at 170, losing to Kansas state champion Sammie Cokely of St. James Academy.
Phippen, a junior and defending state champion for the Pirates, went 4-0 with two pins and two major decisions. He shut out Mark Ames of Southeast Polk (Iowa) and Bret Minor of St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) in the semifinal and final by identical scores of 10-0.
Jumps, a two-time state qualifier, rolled into the finals with three straight pins. The senior then outlasted Deveron Duncan of Pittsburg (Kan.) for a 3-2 decision to win the Gardner-Edgerton tournament for the first time.
Platte County scored 131 points and finished 14 back of Omaha-Skutt for fourth place.
Without a wrestler at 106, the Pirates also endured some difficult days for returning state qualifiers Austin Kincaid (seventh at 126) and Sage Smart (seventh at 195). Schmidt went 4-1 with a major decision against Terrance Adeleye of Junction City (Kan.) in the semifinals, while Matthew Knopp earned Platte County’s fourth medal with a fifth-place finish at heavyweight.
Knopp, who missed a state berth by one match last year, won by fall over Nathan Harrell of Olathe North (Kan.) and Ryan Shirley of Gardner-Edgerton to win the consolation bracket.
Lone Jack Kick Off Classic
West Platte came in fourth Saturday, Dec. 3 in Lone Jack, Mo., despite bringing just seven wrestlers to a small school tournament with a large field. The Bluejays scored 93½ points with one champion to finish just ahead of St. Pius X in a crowded set of final team standings.
Brayan Rodriguez, a junior, returned to the team after a year hiatus and rolled to a title at 132. He went 4-0 with a technical fall and three pins, including a second-period fall against Raymaun Henderson of Hogan Prep in the final.
Devin Driskell went 4-0 in pool matches at 170 to reach the final before finishing as runner-up while Jacob Brown (160) and Thomas Tharp (285) both ended up third. Tharp, a sophomore, went 3-2 with three pins.
Wyatt Kleman (145) and Noah Conway (152) were both fifth-place finishers with Conway, West Platte’s lone senior, recovering from an early loss to go 4-1 overall.